K-1 Reading Guide for Parents

This page has been designed to assist parents/guardians in helping children develop and grow as readers. We refer to the period of early childhood as birth to eight years old. It is during this time that most children will learn to become competent readers. It is important to note that in every classroom there are students at different levels in all areas of learning, especially reading. Our goal is to work with you to help our children become successful, enthusiastic readers.

The following are some of the expectations we have for students by grade level:

During the course of Kindergarten

  1. They know how a book works, enjoy looking at books, and having stories read to them. They hold books the right way and turn pages from the front to the back.
  2. They are able to identify letters, distinguish between upper and lower case letters, and make connections between letters and sounds.
  3. They can locate words, lines, spaces, letters, and familiar words in a short text.
  4. They are able to respond to literature and join in familiar stories.
  5. They can read repetitive text while pointing to each word. They can use picture clues and the beginning letter to figure out unfamiliar words.

During the course of First Grade

  1. They recognize familiar words and are able to read some unfamiliar text.
  2. They show signs of becoming quite active readers and are interested in the way their writing looks.
  3. They use pictures for cues to meaning of text and are able to predict words.
  4. They recognize base words within other words and match known clusters of letters to clusters in unknown words.
  5. They are checking their own reading, making sure it makes sense and are more independent in their selection and reading of literature.
  6. They demonstrate comprehension of what is read and can retell details and the sequence of events.

We hope the information provided will be helpful to parents and guardians. If you have any questions when working with your child in reading, please do not hesitate to contact his/her teacher.

I want my child to be a good reader. What can I do to help?

The most important thing we can do to help young children become life-long, successful readers is to read to them.

  • Try to read a book everyday.
  • Read songs, charts, poems, directions, recipes, letters, cards, and every kind of print meaningful to your child.
  • Read the books your child borrows from the classroom; read library books; read books from the public library; read birthday cards; read labels on cereal boxes; read signs along the road; read the labels in the grocery market.

Anything you read aloud to your child will help him/her develop an ear for how written language sounds and shows how meaningful reading is in our everyday life.

When my child brings home a reading book, what should I do?

Children learn to read by reading, just as they learn to ride a bike by practicing over and over. Reading at home provides another experience for becoming a better reader. Here are some simple guidelines for a home reading experience:

  • Ask your child if he/she has brought home a reading book. Young children need help to establish a routine for fulfilling their reading responsibility.
  • Provide your child with a safe place to keep books and a quiet, clean place to do homework.
  • Give your attention. Let your child know that you feel reading is important.
  • Go through each page of the book by looking at the pictures first. Talk about the story as told by the pictures.

My child isn’t reading. I think he/she is just memorizing. What should I do?

Often very beginning readers memorize the print. This is one of the first steps in learning how to read. When your child knows the story, the teacher uses what he/she knows by memory to teach something new about “how reading works.” If he/she looks at a picture of cows going down a hill and reads, “The cows go down,” the teacher might ask to find the work “down” and to read the sentence again by pointing to each word until he/she finds “down.” The teacher is now using memory of what it says on that page to help your child understand the concept of a word, that print on the page goes from left to right, and that there are spaces between words. Memory and picture clues are key tools that very beginning readers use to make sense of print.

Should I cover up the pictures and make my child learn the words? He/she is not really reading, but looking at the pictures to guess the words.

Please don’t cover pictures. The text (print on the page) and the illustration (picture) are deliberately matched to enable your child, at his/her reading level, to successfully read the page. We might compare the pictures to training wheels of a bicycle. They support, encourage, and offer just enough challenge. Books with pictures have supportive “training wheels.” The texts are leveled and your child’s books are chosen very carefully. As he/she progresses you will notice less of a dependency on pictures. He/she will begin to use many different strategies for making sense of print.

When my child reads, he/she makes mistakes. What should I do if the correct words are not being read?

Children make many different kinds of reading errors. Some errors don’t result in a lack of meaning-the mistake makes sense and the child understands the story message. For example, the print reads, “He went up the steps,” but your child says, “He went up the stairs.” With a very beginning reader it’s better not to point out such a mistake. But if your child says, “He went up the story,” and loses meaning, then wait until your child finishes reading and ask, “Did that make sense?” Never interrupt a child at the moment he/she makes a mistake. Give time to self-correct. If you sense frustration, read it for him/her.

Sometimes when I ask my child what was done during reading, I am told about an art project. What’s going on?

There are a wide range of experiences which help children re-tell or re-visit a story. Each of these is designed to enhance speaking, listening, reading and writing. An art project such as a mural is just one such activity. Others may include writing about the story, listening to story on tape or CD, dramatizations or plays about a story, or maybe a puppet show. Each activity is planned to enhance a child’s ability to communicate in a creative, meaningful manner.

When my child writes, he/she puts down letters that don’t make sense and can’t read what is written. Should I tell my child how to spell words so they can be read?

When children understand that words are important to their message, they will start putting marks, squiggles, and then letters on their papers. They soon forget the message. This is the first stage of writing and should be encouraged. If the child can’t read his/her print, ask your child to tell you what the picture is about and accept the story. As your child learns to distinguish sounds and make the sound-letter connection, he/she will begin to use letters to represent words and gradually will write phonetically and then progress to standardized spelling. It is important not to habitually spell words for children. It tells them their work isn’t good enough and that it is wrong. Children may then be afraid to make a mistake and will sacrifice story for correct spelling.


Setting the Atmosphere

  • Help your child find a quiet, comfortable place to read
  • Have your child see you as a reading model
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Re-read favorite stories
  • Read with your child
  • Discuss the stories you read together
  • Recognize the value of silent reading
  • Keep reading time enjoyable and relaxed

Responding to Errors in Reading

Based on the way most of us were taught to read, we have told the child to “sound it out” when he/she comes to an unknown word. While phonics is an important part of reading, reading for meaning is the primary goal. To produce independent readers who monitor and correct themselves as they read, the following prompts are recommended before saying “sound it out.”

  • Give your child wait time of 5 to 10 seconds. See what he/she attempts to do to help himself/herself.
  • “What would make sense here?”
  • “What do you think that word could be?”
  • “Use the picture to help you figure out what it could be.”
  • “Go back to the beginning and try that again.”
  • “You read that word on another page. See if you can find it.”
  • “Look at how that word begins. Make that sound.”
  • Tell your child the word.

Most important, focus on what your child is doing well and attempting to do. Remain loving and supportive. When your child is having difficulty and trying to work out the trouble spots, comments such as the following are suggested:

  • “Good for you! I like the way you tried to work that out.”
  • “That was a good try. Yes, that word would make sense there.”
  • “I like the way you looked at the picture to help yourself.”
  • “I like the way you went back to the beginning of the sentence and tried that again. That’s what good readers do.”
  • “You are becoming a good reader. I am so proud of you!”


Patterned text:

The books selected provide a gradually increasing level of challenge. The text is constructed so that the child will be successful. The first readers have simple phrases with only one word changing on each page. In these stories the picture tells the word change. The next level has one sentence on each page with one word changing in each sentence. This will increase to two sentences per page with a supporting rhyming pattern. This patterned text is another “training wheel” the child uses to gain reading experience.

Finger pointing/one-to-one correspondence:

Beginning readers are encouraged to point to each word as they say it. This helps them to move correctly both across and down the page. It helps develop the concept of a word and it also helps them to understand spacing. These are some concepts of print that are essential to early reading development.

Word frame:

Children are taught to use the pointer fingers of each hand to block a word. The child uses this to focus on one word so specific skills may be taught or reinforced.


The process by which children learn to emphasize sounds in a word by saying the word slowly. As the child says the word he/she tries to write down each sound heard. This is sometimes called temporary or inventive spelling.

Guided reading:

Reading instruction that is designed to meet the specific needs or interests of your child. Guided reading groups: small groups where the teacher acts as a guide to support the reading of a new book.


Children are encouraged to make meaningful guesses to read a word. They are taught to make these guesses by using what they know about the context of the story, the pictures, the sentence structure, and finally, the letter-sound relationship.

Shared reading:

Group experiences where a group of children read from an enlarged text. It may be a big book, poem, chart, song, etc. Shared reading is a structured reading lesson.

Listening center:

A place in the room where recorded books are listened to. Children may read along as they listen to the recorded book. These books provide a reading response activity that reinforces the story.